Last evening, I made a bit of a confession to my home group that I was becoming a bit discouraged by the seemingly endless flow of negativity, restrictions and fear that have re-emerged once again with regard to the current pandemic.
Like many of you, just a few weeks ago we all felt that we were in an improving situation with the number of cases declining and hospitalizations and reported deaths in our general geographic area on a marked decline. This was also true in many other parts of the country but then seemingly overnight the reports reversed direction as increased testing revealed significant spikes in positive covid-19 test results in many areas where it wasn’t expected such as the very warm climates of Florida, Texas and Arizona along with Southern California.
Soon those numbers began to creep up in many other states, but not nearly as dramatically as the four that I mentioned. Here in Southwestern Pennsylvania, Allegheny County saw a moderate “spike” in positive tests, though hospitalizations and deaths remained low.
The net result of all of this negativity has been a clamping down once again on normal human interaction in everything from businesses re-opening, to restaurants finally serving customers once again and now even to heated debates about whether or not schools will re-open and just recently strict limitations being imposed once again on houses of worship throughout our community.
The sum total of these combined elements, and especially the way they are reported continually in any kind of media to which you might refer, is the inescapable sense that fear is gripping the minds and hearts of many, many people. Many will deny that this is driving their actions, but when you peel bake their rationalizations somewhere near the foundation of it all is the fear that this virus will potentially devastate their life in one way or another. Whether they see themselves at personal risk or in some cases, even worse, that they might unknowingly infect someone that they love or care about which does nothing more than cause them to retreat even further from meaningful human interaction.
Having a normal conversation with a neighbor, friend or co-worker, let alone strangers, is very awkward if not impossible. Most exchanges are superficial at best and leave little or no room to genuinely connect with other people at a meaningful and honest emotional level.
The unfortunate part is that the science of all this continues to evolve but in every study that is currently published there’s very little data to corroborate the relatively extreme measures that are being advocated and in many cases imposed by our government officials. In today’s Wall Street Journal which referenced a national and even global assessment of the mortality rate of the covid-19 virus all the statistics say it’s between .5 and 1%. That means if you do test positive you have a 99% chance of recovering from the virus, and that most everyone who does succumb to it has some sort of significant co-morbidity. For whatever reason, the media rarely tells us these statistics and that the people that we should be most concerned about and most careful with and compassionate toward are the very elderly who might already have compromised immune systems. (The median age of coronavirus decedents in Italy was 80, and they died with a median of nearly three co-morbidities, such as heart disease and diabetes.)
It’s also evident that the potential implications of increased lock-downs and children not returning in the fall could be absolutely devastating to the psychological and emotional health of our families as well as the financial stability of our economy and therefore our people.
I’ll intentionally not comment on the added fear that has been ginned up by the cultural explosions of “peaceful protests” turned violent, destructive and once again, fear producing outbreaks nationwide. People are leaving large cities by the droves and it’s widely predicted that New York City, Minneapolis, Los Angeles among numerous other cities may never fully recover from the exodus that these actions have caused.
All of this needs to be juxtaposed against one of the fundamental principles throughout all of scripture and particularly the New Testament. Jesus speaks so clearly in so many different circumstances that the over-ruling posture against fear is that of faith, whether in corporate settings such as Matthew 8:26 where the disciples are in a boat with Jesus as a violent storm comes up and they begin to sink, waking Jesus out of desperation where He says, “You of little faith, why are you so afraid?” to the reports in three gospels of Jesus Himself touching a leprous man, a man with a highly infectious deadly disease, saying that He’s willing to face the prospect of death in order to bring about healing. (Mark 1:40, Luke 5:12-14) In perhaps the most dramatic confrontation of so-called “facts” and the reality of the power of “faith,” Jesus is told of the death of the ruler Jairus’ daughter in Luke 8:50 when he says specifically to this synagogue ruler, “Don’t be afraid, just believe and she will be healed.”
No way am I making a case for disregard about treating this national health emergency with respect and wisdom. However, I am stating that we all need to be examining our own motives and determining if we are responding to circumstances out of fear … or are we trusting in the Word of God and the faith that it speaks to each and every situation. In the end, the ultimate reality of life is not in circumstance, but in what God’s word promises to be true and makes alive to our heart by faith.